Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Why many children are much better off in school than at home

Yesterday I mentioned briefly some of the children who started school at the same time as my daughter. Many of these children did not appear to have been raised in a modern industrial society. To be blunt, some of them looked as though they were hardly used to standing upright, never mind learning to read and write. Having done quite a bit of home visiting in the past, I was not particularly surprised to see these children; I know only too well what sort of homes they come from. It is not that their families are poor in the conventional meaning of the word. They have 72 inch plasma screen televisions in every room, computers, games consoles, no books, but a huge book-shelf full of DVDs and computer games. In some of these homes, there is literally no printed matter at all. Needless to say they usually have a TV in their bedrooms. Meals are eaten with their fingers while squatting round the television. Often the house will reek of stale urine because nobody has got round to teaching the kids to control their bladders. Spoken language is hardly used at all in such homes, except for control and rebuke. The very concept of a conversation, as in the sense of one person speaking and then remaining silent while another person speaks is quite alien to them.

For these children, school is a rescue, a last chance for society to reclaim its most vulnerable members from the descent into barbarism. Leave those kids where they are and in a generation or two they will be crawling around on all fours, having lost all skills save for the ability to wield a remote control. At least at school there is a slender chance that some of these children might actually make something of their lives, might make some sort of intellectual progress. They will not see books unless they attend school. They will not learn to read and write, nor encounter even the most basic historical knowledge. It really is this desperate.

I talked yesterday about support groups with which I used to be involved when my daughter was a baby. The sort of activities that we did with those small children were very basic, yet utterly vital for them if they were to have the remotest chance of benefiting from school when they were five. For instance, simple turn taking games. The idea of taking a turn, waiting for somebody else to do something before you have a go, is wholly unknown in many homes in the land. This skill is of course essential even for a conversation. At school, a child will be completely unable to learn, if he does not realise that while the teacher is speaking, he must sit quietly and wait until she has stopped talking before he speaks himself. This simple skill, which most of the sort of parents one finds on home education message boards take for granted, is altogether lacking in many small children when they start school. They have never actually taken part in a conversation and so do not know the rules. If they want something, they will grab it. If frustrated, they throw spectacular tantrums. Some of them void urine without even being aware that there might be a special time and place to do so.

If education for these children did not mean compulsory schooling, then their outlook would be bleak indeed. If their parents realised that it was not legally necessary to send them to school, then they would not bother to get dressed in the morning to take them to school. I am glad indeed that most parents believe schooling to be required by law! Without this false idea, the outlook for many thousands of children in this country would be pretty grim. Ironically, it is children from such homes who sometimes start refusing to go to school at all as teenagers. If the parents hear about home education, they might then deregister them, which is an absolute disaster for the child concerned. It is children from these homes, both the very young and the teenagers, about whom so many professionals are worried. Tony Mooney, a well known home education inspector, has been castigated often on the HE-UK and EO lists for talking about children on council estates who have been withdrawn from school. This is not snobbishness but genuine concern for the welfare and future prospects of children for whom a lifetime on state benefits is the only realistic prospect. Regular attendance at school offers them the only available route away from this depressing way of life.


  1. When were you invited to give oral evidence to teh select committee and on what basis?

  2. My husband came from a very poor working class background (no indoor loos or a bathroom until he was a student) although I must add that it was a very moral traditional church going family - father worked, mother cared for children. For him, passing the then 11+ and later entrance to Cambridge changed his life ..so formal education was totally positive. Yet in modern society and more importantly in todays schools, I am not so sure that we can always see "education" as having such a positive effect...I suppose that if you count toilet training the incontinent it may always be positive...but schools can also be a good place to learn "sin" too (borne out by my experience teaching!!)
    I suppose this is why the govt introduced Surestart- but I have seen mixed reviews of that projects outcomes too.

  3. Rachel, I was invited to give oral evidence to the select committee on September 23rd this year. I am not quite sure what you mean when you ask upon what basis? I shall be speaking to the House of Commons Children, Schools and Families Committee - inquiry into the DCSF-commissioned review into elective home education. This is further to a review of elective home education which was conducted earlier this year; you may perhaps have read about it in the newspapers.

  4. Ah yes Julie, I had forgotten that you were also a teacher! You are quite right about sin and that too is a matter for concern. However, there is enough of this in man since the fall in any case. Children don't have to learn it, it is hard wired into their brains!

  5. "You are quite right about sin and that too is a matter for concern. However, there is enough of this in man since the fall in any case. Children don't have to learn it, it is hard wired into their brains!"

    Speak for your own children but don't include mine in your biased statements. No wonder you are against autonomous education if this is your view of children.

  6. What is your definition of sin, Simon?

  7. Obviously a big mistake to use a theological expression in my post about schools! I was merely pointing out that schools maybe good for some as a place of positive learning, but are also a place where children can learn plenty of negative things too!
    However, whilst it may have been an unfortunate word as far as the previous posters are concerned, I would like to point out that the concept of original sin is neither novel or restricted only to the belief system of Simon...and probably has nothing to do with the style of home education adopted by those who accept its validity.

  8. I had no idea that you were interested in theology Anony Mouse! Both you and Anonymous seem irritated that I have used this word. I think that we can all agree that it is not necessary to teach children to lie or be greedy? Whether we call this sin or human nature or even our animal insticts, matters little. Freudians would say that the Id is causing these actions, some Christians would say that it is mankind's essentially sinful nature making people steal, lie, fornicate and cheat.

    I used the word "sin" for it, because Julie had already mentioned it. The fact that Julie put the word in inverted commas and that I ended my resonse with an exclamation mark might possibly have alerted readers to the fact that this was not a deadly serious exchange. Julie is a churchgoer, as am I, and that was the context.

    I was pointing out to Julie that although I am aware that some sects, such as the Brethren, keep their children separate to avoid contamination from the world, the enemy is already within the home. Children will do wrong things as a matter of course, unless of course we teach them otherwise. Proverbs 22.6; raise up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it even in old age. I rest my case!

  9. "Children will do wrong things as a matter of course, unless of course we teach them otherwise. Proverbs 22.6; raise up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it even in old age. I rest my case!"

    Oh, it says so in an ancient book so it must be right, glad you put me right there then.

  10. Yeh, an old book that also happens to advocate incest, rape, child abuse and murder, the killing of homosexuals and terrorism. A book that also states blind and disabled people may not approach God's altar. I have to say, this explains an awful lot!
    Will you be making it clear to the Select Committee that your stance on Home Education is derived from your theology Simon? Can anyone tell me why other faiths are not represented?

  11. Oh come on people! Whilst I don't subscribe to the original sin claptrap, I agree with the sentiment behind it. Kids are capable of doing bad things. I'd strongly disagree that this is from birth (and hence the frankly idiotic and destructive idea that we are all 'born into sin'). A 1 year old is no more capable of being 'naughty' as he is of understanding Euclidian Mathematics. The brain development just ain't there! However, as a child develops an understanding of right and wrong, they continually test and re-test these new concepts, feeling what it is like to be good or bad, and so adapting their behaviour accordingly. In a way, all children have to experience being bad in order to decide to be good!

    Julie's point, if I can de-thologise it, is that school provides ample opportunity for the positive reinforcement of bad behaviour, as well as places to learn new ways in which to be bad.

    I find very little here to disagree with (apart from the supercilious tone).

  12. I have never made any secret at all about the fact that my belief in home education is backed by scripture, Joely. I probably won't be raising my beliefs unless asked by memebers of the select committee. What do you think I shall be doing, going down there with a Bible and prophesying to the Commons? It's an enchanting idea, I would look like Amos. Why do you think that other faiths are not going to be represented next week? I have no idea about the religious beliefs of those called to give evidence. I am mildly surprised to hear that you do not believe, Anonymous, that the way that a child is raised and educated can affect his morality in later life. I suppose you believe in some sort of inherent moral compass which operates independently of nurture. This is a strange idea, a little too mystical for me I am afraid! I prefer the common sense approach, that children have to be laboriously taught how to hold a knife and fork, how to behave towards others, why kindness is better than cruelty and so on. I have known other people who believed, as you evidently do, that this sort of thing is inbuilt in humans, but it has never seemed convincing to me when one looks at real humans and their behaviour!

  13. Apologies for the typos - the 'E' key on this computer is temperamental!

  14. I disagree that children have to be taught 'good behaviour' as such. I think that they learn mostly by example, as they do with so much else. Plus there is a healthy dose of experiencing the consequences of their actions (as long as they are allowed to do so).

    Attempts to teach a kid to share, by rewarding them or praising them when they do share for example, most often leads to them being less sharing when no one is watching/rewarding/praising. Sharing becomes a selfish act.

    Showing them that you as their parent are a sharing person however, and that it is a natural and good way to relate to other people, allows them to grow into sharing naturally. And allowing them to find out that if they don't share, people don't like them quite as much.

    There is quite a lot of insulation going on of children from the *real* consequences of their actions. I don't mean sending the kid to their room for whacking their little sister; the real consequence is having to stay, experience her crying, help calm her, apologise, and make friends again. This is far harder and far more valuable than sitting in 'time out' for 15 minutes.

    It's a difference of attitude: You believe that children are born bad and have to be taught to be good. I say children are born good and have to be allowed to stay that way.

    I do think you're intentionally being a bit obtuse though Simon. You brought up 'the fall' and the concept of 'sin' and then criticise someone for saying they don't believe in them. A sin is a disobedience to the will of God. The fall is the original disobedience to the will of God in the garden of Eden which has supposedly cursed mankind through all generations since. I can't say I believe in these things either. But I do believe that kids do bad things.

  15. Simon you misunderstand. You do not have to raise your beliefs for everything you say to the Select Committee to be a result of them. You presumably reject autonomous education because you believe that if children are not trained up in the way they should go, original sin will claim them. Frankly, although you are entitled to your views, I think it would be dishonest for you not to be open about where they come from. I have a completely different theology which is not based up patriarchy or original sin and which rejects structured education precisely because of that theology. There is no-one speaking at the select committee representing my faith and it is simply unacceptable for you to seek to override my faith and theology and how that manifests in my educational philosophy with your faith and theology in the guise of your educational philosophy. It is a misuse and abuse of the Select Committee hearing.

  16. "I have never made any secret at all about the fact that my belief in home education is backed by scripture"

    Simon, you've managed to confuse me twice in one week now.

    If your belief in home education is backed by scripture (and I happen to agree with you on that one), then why only for Simone, and not for your eldest daughter?

    It just doesn't make sense to me, why one daughter should benefit from an education system which you believe is backed by the bible, whilst your other daughter doesn't. Especially when you've mentioned in other posts concerning autonomy, that it's the parent's responsibility to teach the child, and not let the child just do what they want to.

    Mind you, God's one thing, but the insistence of a wife is quite another ;) Taking one to know one of course :)

  17. "As for Tony Mooney, my views of him are not fit for a family website!".

    Statement made by Simon Webb on a home education list.

  18. Anonymous: We are all products of our own ideology. Many home educators do so for philosophical reasons. This is not a reason for Simon not to speak to the select committee. By your reasoning it would be wrong for anyone who bases their child's education on some philosophical or theological foundation to speak.

    I have some very deeply held feelings about why it is fundamentally wrong to put a child through the State school system. These are at least partly based on my personal philosophy and my own belief system. I don't feel it would preclude me from speaking out against, say the use of corporal punishment in schools though, which may be a fundamental part of education according to someone else's philosophy and belief system. So why would Simon expressing opinion about autonomous learning be any different? Presumably he is not so stupid as to stand up and quote scripture, and his reasons (which I incidentally wholeheartedly disagree with) would be voiced from the point of view of his experiences, anecdotal evidence, etc.

    I'm not sure why the Select Committee might want to hear such ill-informed, elitist tosh about autonomous education though. Their brief is to investigate the conduct of the Badman Review, and whether the findings are supported in evidence. As far as I can see the only finding that Badman gave about autonomous education is that it is an unknown quantity and is under-researched (something else I disagree with, incidentally - he was very selective in his reading if he thinks it's under-researched). But then I'm feeling fairly disagreeable this evening.

  19. Why Simon, Simone. or who you claim you may be.
    Do you insist on writing your own dialogue to back up your own views.
    Don't justify your behaviour, and don't run down other peoples children.
    I really hate to think where you got your education from. To live a life of lies and admit it in public.
    Now try answering this one back!
    OH folks i am listing this as anonymous, that is if he dares to post it.

  20. "Without this false idea, the outlook for many thousands of children in this country would be pretty grim."

    I am starting to think we must live in different countries.

    The UK education system is awful, and you only need to be barely literate to pass a GCSE in English. Remember that a G is a pass and you probably get a G for turning up!

    Please tell me what fantastic outlook school children of Tower Hamlets or Haringey have with the utterly rubbish schools that they have to attend.

    Not only is the education in most of these establishements dire, the self esteem and lack of attainment for black boys and white working class boys presents to them just the sorts of outcome that you hurl at teenagers who have been removed from school to be home educated.

    Forcing these children back in school does not solve the problem. They are voting with their feet because the school isn't meeting their needs.

    Rushing through laws which would effecitively put a halt to autonomous education, because a few teenagers in Tower Hamlets aren't getting the education at home that the school was also unable to cause them to receive seems to me completely irrelevant.

    Autonomy does work. Disaffected teenagers in inner cities is a completely different situation which requires a completely different solution completely set apart from home education.

  21. Simon, I'm interested to know how, as a Christian, you can support the policies of a Marxist, anti-faith, anti-family government? Doesn't the Badman review, with its setting of children's rights as being opposed to parents' rights, go directly against the fifth commandment?

  22. Gizzie: You hit the nail on the head. One shouldn't help the few by penalising the many. One should be better at targeting one's aim than that!

    It's called setting the lowest common denominator. Raising some up in their standard of education by a method that lowers the standard for others. This is of course the way that our government sees the world, and is reflected in the way, for instance, vetting every parent who regularly runs some kids to and from Scouts is hailed as a way of filtering out the tiny proportion who may actually be dangerous to kids. It's a lazy and bureaucratic 'scattergun' principle: if you shoot every dog in the country, you're bound to get rid of the one who might one day bite someone. Someone will be saved a rabies jab, but in the end you are left with a bunch of corpses.

    Destroying autonomous learning (or making it so difficult as makes no odds) in order to get rid of 'laissez faire' child rearing makes just as little sense.

  23. do you know Simon I had heard about you, I chose not to bother looking you up, now hearing about your venture next week I've popped in for a little look and it's even worse than I'd expected!
    How dare you judge people in such a way? I'm on benefits, I live on a council estate , but we love learning and love life, We know how to use a toilet and we know how to talk, listen, take turns . . . . my son is a high flyer and is doing a maths masters degree at Warwick University, my girls will one day follow their chosen paths too . . . . thank God they never had to be taught by a teacher as poisonous as you.

  24. It is absolutely clear to me that Simon Webb has some severe mental health problems and I pity his poor daughters who have been brought up by a person like this. I have said this before and will say it again, I would fear for his daughters mental and physical safety as this is a man who considers a child (his own included)to have mental problems if they have issues with being forced into a room with a stranger and interrogated on a 1-1 basis!

  25. Going back to your actual post, Simon....

    You say that if children from 'bad homes' (which do exist) heard about home education they might deregister them, which would be a disaster for the children.

    OK, ignoring the rather tasteless generalisations, I can see your point, but....

    Children from such homes (which exist in nice middle class areas too, believe me) are not valued. Their presence is not wanted. The fact that the child is out of the house for most of the day is an absolute boon to the uncaring, bestial parents whose picture you paint so vividly. I consider it far more likely that this situation would happen if, say, the child repeatedly truanted and the parents were threatened with fines or a jail sentence for their non attendence (which highlights the stupidity of that recent policy). Saying they can simply not be bothered to 'get dressed in the morning to take them to school' is a facetious remark that does nothing to support your argument.

    But really, the point is, is it not, that such parents are not ensuring their child is receiving an education, and are therefore acting illegally. That is beyond question. However, currently there is nothing to stop a LA investigating and acting on such a family apart from that LA's misunderstanding of their own powers, misunderstanding of home education, lack of funding/staff to carry out their duties, or lack of desire to do the job due to low morale, insufficient training, etc.

    Investigating Dawny's happy brood of autonomous learners is not going to help Wayne and Waynetta Slob's unhousetrained pups. Those pups can be rounded up and packed off to their bright new future in school without having to ruin the superior education Dawny is providing. And if you think it is not possible, tell me why it is then right or fair that Dawny's kids' standard of education should be lowered in order to tackle problems in the Slob household?

    I understand that you are not a 'touchy feely' person and have no time for such social niceties as tact, but it would be diplomatic to indicate that you are not generalising about council estate dwellers per se.

  26. Anonymous again: "...this is a man who considers a child (his own included)to have mental problems if they have issues with being forced into a room with a stranger and interrogated on a 1-1 basis!"

    Mmmm... For me it is far more important to realise that a child taken from parents, against their will or not, for 1-1 interview is not a reliable witness and is extremely open to leading questions from LA officers who are quite possibly looking for a reason to find fault.

    I have a friend whose 5 year old will tell anyone who listens that her mother "slaps her about". Mother doesn't of course (if I had the remotest suspicion that she did I'd be the first on the line to children's services), but the darling child has discovered that this is a really good way to make her mum uncomfortable, and presumably considers it payback for being made to tidy her room or eat her greens or whatever. I shudder to think what would happen after her first 1-1 interview...!

    Courts of law know that children are unreliable witnesses and expend much effort on avoiding their testimony if at all possible, and gaining it under scrupulous conditions if it is necessary. Local Authorities however are to send some underpaid, stressed and overworked officer round for a quick chat and will base their decisions on what the child says without question. And remember that they are being asked to look for evidence that the child is being neglected, such as (NICE guidelines) inappropriate clothing, grubbiness, unwillingness to talk, over-eagerness to talk... some of which apply to most of the primary age children I know much of the time!

  27. With Simon having such a derogatory attitude towards children, and one he is quite proud to display, he in my opinion should not be allowed anywhere near a child, espec other peoples! From all the comments he has made in various places I dread to think how he instilled disipline into his daughters! I shudder at the thought.

  28. Gisela, I might have misled you here, unintentionally. I did not begin home educating my daughter because I thought it a Biblical commandment. Rather, opnce we had been doing it for a while, I realised that it was quite in accordance with scripture. Even I am not mad enough to use a set of documents from the Bronze Age as the foundation stone of my educational philosophy! It is however always pleasant to discover others who approve of home education, even if they were writing thousands of years ago. i am happy to continue this discussion privately, Gisela. Some of the people who are now contacting the select committee to complain about my choice as a witness are coming on here and using informatin which I have posted about my children. This means that I shall not be putting up any more stuff about my family, which is a shame. I am of course always happy to chat to you in a private capacity.

  29. Mouse, Christianity and Marxism are not incompatible, but that is another debate. I did not vote for this present government and diagree with many, but not all of their policies. They are indeed anti-faith and I find this deplorable. It is perfectly possible to honour one's mother and father while still adhering to the law of the country. Render unto Caesar... See also what Paul said on the subject of our rulers being appointed over us and our duty of obedience.

  30. By the way Mouse, you hope that I am not generalising about council estate dwellers and I am happy to give this assurance. I am howeve a little puzzled. Who said anything about council estates? I have not mentioned them, except to quote Tony Mooney. This has more to do with a certain type of parent, a type whome my work brings me into contact with. Some of these live on council estates, others do not. Well off, middle class parents have their own ways of neglecting their children's welfare, no less damaging I am sure, but I have had less personal experience of this.

  31. Dawny, you are falling into the classic logical pifall of arguing from the particular to the universal. I have nothing to say about council estates in general and am actually talking about families with whom I come into contact. The only mention I made of council estates was to quote Tony Mooney and suggest that he was not being snobbish.

  32. But is it possible to honour one's mother and father and adhere to the law of the country when such laws often create a division, in law if not in fact, between child and parent?

    Render unto Caesar was talking about taxes. That is another topic!

    I find Paul objectionable on a number of levels, but appreciate that you do not and wish to follow his ideas.

  33. "Who said anything about council estates?"

    Why, Dawny did. Also, as you mention, your quote from Tony Mooney.

  34. You know Mouse, if you want to sign up as a team author here, I think that your views would be very welcome. It would involve giving your email address and then I could stick you on the list. Once that was done, you could write posts here. It's worth considering.

  35. I may have put what you said into a setting, but quite honestly it appears to me that you are sitting on high passing judgement. I really don't give a damn about you really , I just find it very bizarre that the gov't should pick you as a witness when you are clearly extreme and have a high regard for yourself . . . . .

  36. Extreme and with a high regard for himself and total disregard for the individual child! He makes my skin crawl.

  37. Thanks but no thanks, Simon. I'm too busy reading education theory, researching legislation and law and doing all manner of background research to help me in filling in bloomin' consultation documents, calls for evidence, Select Committee submissions... and occasionally finding a bit of time left to educate my children!

    If you could tell me exactly why Ed Balls should have the power to influence my children's education in order to find theoretical abused/neglected children, it may help reduce my workload, as I'm buggered if I can find a link.

  38. Homeedmonkey, you are behaving rather like a troll. I have always commented on Blogs and message boards with my own name, particularly when I have something unpleasant to say. I shall allow your posts for a bit longer, but if your are just coming on to be abusive I shall start deleting them. If you have something sensible to say then stop and think about it for a while, maybe jot down a few notes before you start typing. And for heaven's sake come up with some original figures of speech! "He makes my skin crawl". I mean, cliched or what?

  39. "Who said anything about council estates?"

    You did, Simon. Take a look at your own post here dated 1st September and entitled "Meanwhile, back on the estates" and quoted here:

    "Tony Moony and Myra Robinson, like the present author famous betes noires of the autonomous educators, frequently refer to what they see on housing estates. (Projects to American readers.)

    What snobbishness! have they not heard of Paula Rothermel's research? Don't they know that working class parents can also home educate their children? Let me take you now to a typical, rundown housing estate in the London borough of Tower Hamlets and demonstrate the nature of the problem."

    OK, so you didn't actually use the word "council" but there aren't any other kind of estates in Tower Hamlets.

    Famous betes noires of the autonomous educators"
    Is that how you see yourself? Sad.

  40. Ah, you want it both ways: you quote Tony Mooney and then, when challenged, distance yourself from his comments. Hey, you'll be a Cabinet minister yet, my son.

    But it IS snobbery of the most profound degree. Whether or not the parents you so despise live on council estates, you point to a range of behaviours that you deem beyond the pale. Frankly, all this fuss about 72-inch plasma screens and TV dinners derives from too many literary snobs and too many chefs and far too many parliamentarians' sojourns in Tuscany. To use them as indicators of learning potential (without factoring in lots of much more significant variables), smacks merely of prejudice. It's the kind of workhouse-and-hellfire, 'deserving' and 'undeserving' dichotomy that Charles Dickens protested against. Charlie-boy clearly saw such thinking as the real villain that endangered the lives and minds of children. Sad that these attitudes are back with a vengeance.

    By the way, we're raising our daughter on a council estate. With 4 degrees (1 a PhD) between us. And a job. And a couple of small TVs.

  41. Simon,

    I think you are worrying unnecessarily. The kinds of parents who are happy to plop their children in front of the telly with a bag of wotsits for hours on end every day are generally the ones who can't WAIT to drop them at the school gates at aged 5, or 4 or 3 or whatever the school starting age has dropped to. I can't remember.

    For most of us, HE'ing for the best part of 20 years is a massive commitment. A commitment to actually being with our kids day in, day out. One which negligent parents can't be bothered to make.

    Mrs Anon
    Proud to be Anonymous and wish I could be in my actual life... :-)

  42. Oh come on Shepherdlass! Simon didn't mention TV dinners anywhere ever! Get with the programme: if you don't word your quotes precisely as Simon has, you give him an excuse to go on for paragraphs about how hypocritical you are for misquoting him!

    But you're right, this post does come across as snobbish. I think supercilious was the word I used (just cos it's a fun word to use). Come clean Simon: there were no 72 inch plasma TVs in the bathroom. They were 20" flat screen LCDs at the most.

    To be serious (sorry - tiredness makes me flippant), whether or not Simon's article is based on his experience (and I have no reason to believe it is not an exaggerated version of his experience), the attitude that comes across is certainly one of superiority - and he does see himself as superior to the people he has visited, and to those uncultured yobs he imagines as the parents of his daughter's classmates. The feeling is of condemnation coming from an superficial viewing of these families. He may be perfectly right in the cases he experienced, but that's beside the point.

    Simon is trying to appeal to an 'Us and Them' mindset which I find very unappealing. He is saying, "You know the type: they're not like us!" 'Us' has lots of books, engages in witty conversation at the drop of a hat, and eats proper meals at a proper table with the (modestly sized) TV turned off. 'Them' is bestial and ignorant and populist and uncultured. And smells of wee, apparently. These are stereotypes. As is the problem with all stereotypes, they are used to pigeonhole people because of certain selected traits, and so they seriously annoy others who share some of those traits but who don't see themselves as occupying that pigeonhole. In the worst cases, the pigeonhole is labelled 'single mother' or 'estate family' or 'Chav' and is taken up and promoted by the media, and all hope of escaping prejudicial treatment is swept away for the unfortunates stuck with that label.

    Stereotypes when subtly used can be useful literary devices; shorthand, to get everyone on the same page, seeing the image of the same 'type' of person. But I don't think they should be applied in a crass manner to real groups of people, or when dealing with real issues. Apart from anything else I think it is lazy, sensationalist, tabloidesque writing.

    None of this is the point of the article anyway, and actually none of it needed to have been written in such a tone. The point of the article is that school life, for some children, is better than their home life. This is manifestly true and doesn't really need an article with a dubious tone to point it out. I've met many people in everyday life who happily tell me they hated school, but at least it got them away from their parents. But really Simon we need to go further than such obvious rhetoric and look at whether school is really the best way to help these children (which seems to be the attitude of the government), or just the best we've got at the moment. Could more be done to stop 'home' becoming a dead weight round a kid's neck in the first place? What causes some people to give up on life and knowledge and education in the first place? What is it that engenders the attitude of "it's cool to be stupid" that infects so many people from so many backgrounds? My own suspicion is that it often has quite a lot to do with their own schooling experience, or that of their own parents…

  43. Dear Simon,
    I write to you regarding your disappointment at my not been able to come up with an original comment other than you making my skin crawl. I see from all your posts you like plain,honest speaking but not however when it comes from someone else. That is such a shortcoming. My comment was not meant to be abusive, it was an honest assessment of the vibes I get when I read your words. Unfortunately it was the only comment that suited the feeling I was getting at that time. I don't particularly want to sit and think of you for too long so cannot do as you ask and think what I want to say before I type. I type as I think, it's the best way.However, you feel it suitable to abuse me by calling me a troll? Make your mind up, please.
    BTW, I am a home educator who uses a mix of structure and autom. Every child however they are educated benefit from autom, without them even knowing it. Even your own daughter will have.

  44. Mouse - Good point. My reference to TV dinners was simply shorthand for "Meals are eaten with their fingers while squatting round the television" but I'd hate anyone to think I was maliciously misquoting!

  45. By the way homedmonkey, somebody tells me that you are actually Julie Garret. Is this true? You say in your post that you don't wish to sit and think about me for very long. This is fine. Why think about me at all? Why not simply forget that I exist? To be fair, I am not forcing you to come onto this Blog and post comments. You have presumably some choice in the matter.

  46. Erm, Simon YOU are the one who suggested I take time to think before I write on your blog! No I am not Julie Garret, in fact I have never heard of that person. How can someone make an assumption like that? What makes this person think they know who i am?? There seems to be a lot of "somebody" telling you things/forwarding you messages etc etc etc. I would love to forget you exist Simon and hopefully sometime soon I will.

  47. I suggested that you take time to think homedmonkey, but not think about me! I meant to think about what you are going to say. You will hardly be able to forget about me if you keep coming onto my Blog. Resist this temptation, my girl. Grit your teeth and simply say to yourself, "He's no good for me. He is making me unhappy and I must forget all about him." I know you can forget me, homedmonkey. It only wants a little willpower. Incidentally, I do apologise for being misled into thinking that you are Julie Garret. She is a pretty repulsive individual and a grosser calumny can hardly be imagined! I really am sorry and have almost fallen out with my informant.

  48. Simon said, 'She is a pretty repulsive individual'

    Simon, that is the sort of thing people get very upset about. Isn't it as bad as calling someone a *&%%)*!@x! ?

    James 3 1-12

    Mrs Anon

  49. Yes, Mrs. Anon, you are quite right! Also of course Prov. 15.1